tv Charlie Rose PBS February 20, 2012 12:00pm-1:00pm PST
>> welcome to our program, we begin this evening with a remembrance of and thonnee shadid, the great reporter who died all too soon at age 43. >> this is one of the great leg cease of the american occupation, american invasion, however you want to characterize it, is the evolution of politics in iraq, the evolution toward, you know, they revolve solely around this access of ethnicity and sect. and i think that, we're seeing that if anything more deeply entrenched. there is talk about national unit, trying to bridge the sectarian and ethnic divide but we still have in iraq is it almost solely defined by your ethnicity and your sect and that means you have no political class that can cross, you know k speak on behalf of the country itself or on behalf of the broader nation. >> we continue tonight celebrating the 200th anniversary of charles dickens. with salman rushdie, jill
lepore, robert douglas-fairhurst and simon coleau. >> one of the things about dickens there is this extraordinary shelf of books which as we were saying, you can look find end else contemporary references in them and as time has passed, the strength of that body of work, you know, has made him really, i think, the english novelist. >> rose: we continue tonight with the celebration of the lives of two men who helped us understand the world around us by what they wrote. one died this week, anthony shadid. the other died in 1870, charles dickens. both of them a celebration when we continue. funding for charlie rose was provided by the following:.
york city, this is charlie captioning sponsored by rose communications captioned by >> we begin this evening with a remembrance of anthony shadid, "the new york times" foreign correspondent dade thursday from an apparent asthma attack while on assignment in sirria. he was only 43 years old. this is what "new york times" executive editor jill abrahmson said of him. anthony died as he lived, determined to bear witness to the transformation sweeping the middle east and to testify to the suffering of people caught between government oppression and opposition forces. in a career spanning two decades shad i had won-- shadid won two pulitzer prizes, he wrote for the associated press, "boston globe", "washington post" and "new york times". he reported on egypt, iraq, iran, syria, turkey, qatar, lebanon and more. he was of lebanese descent and spoke fluid arabic. we think of warriors when we think of war heroes. anthony shadid was a hero.
he gave wit continues to the post brutal conflicts of our time with a brilliant mind and el qented pen. he saw the senselessness of so much a war and he captured it in the lives of its victims. de it not only at the risk of comfort but also his own life. last year he and three colleagues were held captive by qaddafi's forces in libya for almost a week. anthony shadid took these risks so we would not only know the small picture of real team in real places, but also the big picture of places he wanted us to understand. for all this shadid was revered by his peers. former colleague at the "washington post" called his work poetry on deadline. richard engle of nbc, he what go out in the morning and find some tiny village tucked on a hillside where none of us thought to go. he found the story in the detail, in the the fireballs. it takes a sensitive ear to do that war is a loud place full of emotions, explosions, gore, fat agency, pitty, outrage and rage but anthony managed to pick out the
quiet notes and hear the melody playing under the cacophony. reading the whole body of the work was like range stories about a world of men usual leigh bathed in cigarette smoke, hyped up on coffee and ready to talk about the why the world is the way it is. lake a great short story writer. shadid's use of these characters was neither too heavy or too light. he let them breathe and speak and they allowed the read tore join in, to slip inside worlds in ways of thinking internationalally closed off. anthony shadid was scheduled to be here in my studio with me on march 27th to talk about his new memoir. so our prayer goes out to his waive fada, his family and his colleagues. tonight we appreciate him by looking back at what he did best, his reporting. he was on this broadcast seven times often via remote or phone and once at this table with his wife. here he is talking about some of the places he reported from. >> i was first based here as
a journalist back in the mid 1990s and at that time not even taxi drivers would really talk about president mubarak. there was this aura of power, this prestige of power about him. that changed over the decade that fold but i think what was most striking to me, at least n watching that trial yesterday, was the humbling of power in a way, the aura around former president mubarak became mundane to the million approximates of people who were watching it, especially in egypt. he was a man. and he was merely that. >> when i was down there vitting a friend in basra, he said to me, he gave me a proverb and i thought said about the state of mind today. he said we'll show you death so that you will accept a fever. the idea is with are being shown death so we will accept a fever of something else. his line was that at this point iraqis probably would accept anything that would end the bloodshed, just a form of security, a form of stability. let's talk about democracy, a democratic government, i think that comes that is secondary at this point to having, you know, to bore
about the more central issues of life which is survivor. and i think there is a sense among iraqis at this point that they are desperate for anything that will stop the bloodshed. >> is there any-- desperate meaning what, that because they've lost even in their own neighborhood these are no longer safe. >> you know there are some neighborhoods where you basically enter a neighborhood as a stranger and are you going to be killed it is such a pitch environment, such an intense environment in a way because of this fear. you know, most of the people i talked to have basically withdrawn, they have withdrawn behind doors. if there isn't any engagement in political life really beyond what is going on inside the green zone, there is a sense of trying to wait it out, hoping this will end relatively soon and a fear that it is not that it will go on for quite a while. this is, it's-- like i said earlier when we were speaking, i think there is more the sense of despair, not really anger or frustration, a sense of hopelessness and despair and i was struck by how many people told me they never expected to reach this point. when we talk about the sectarian killing we have to understand that while sectarian issues have always
been a facet of iraqi political life, no one probably imagined they would have raeched the point they reached today when you are having killings that are in a lot of ways random. it is confident, a until last week a lot of people find this sad to see what has happened to both the capitol and the country. the infrastructure has been dismantled. over the past six ways israeli attacks have dismantled the infrastructure. it is going to take time to rebuild t will probably cost billions of dollars. there is a certain generation that is often called the war generation, a generation that grew newspaper lebanon during the civil war it was a dream of that generation to a certain extent, especially those people living in beirut that it would realize its vision. realize its promise, perhaps. that it would become a cosmopolitan city, a center of commerce and culture. and there were signs it was going that way. the politics have always been kind of a mess in the country to be blunt but the city itself, at least the veneer it was able to assume did have some of that going on, especially i think over the past year. and in particular since the
syrians with drew their troops from lebanon. that is no longer the case. and i think that's when you talk to people and hear people being so grim and so discouraged it is about that. it's not only the loss of the cities infrastructure, not only the more than 200 people, who have been killed t is the sense of a dream being losted as well. >> rose: anthony shadid dead at 43. he died as most warriors like to, with their boots on. and as most poets like to write about. charles dickens the great british writer was born in 1812 throughout the english speaking world, his 200th birthday is being celebrated including at new york's morgan library. >> on assignment for charlie rose, at new york's morgan library and museum. the library was founded by morgan in 190. he was an avid collector of dickens as was his son jpmorgan, jr.. the museum holds the largest collection of dickern-- dickens in
america. we are joined by the robert h taylor curator and department head of literary and historical man you crypts at the morgan library. >> here we are in mr. morgan's study and we're looking at the first installments of david copperfield, one shilling would have got you your monthly parts. and here is the beginning part of the become let. and it is just page after page after page of advertisements for books and pills and remedies and all kinds of things. and here you have the original illustrations that accompany each part. separated by tissue, of course, that they didn't smudge each other. and here's the very first page of the narrative. whether i shall turn out to be the hero of my own life or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. so nowadays people buy a dickens novel, they imagine of course that that is how they merchandise books
but -- >> this is the standard publication format for novel os particular to dickens. >> it became so and it was really dickens who pioneered this and was the most successful perpetrator f you will, of publishing in installments. >> i guess what you are saying, these numbers are only a shilling each that everybody could afford to read his work. >> very affordable, yes. if you think that bob scratch et earned 15 shillings a week, even someone as poor as bob could afford to buy a move nell monthly parts. >> dickens was a charismatic figure, and knew how to manipulate an audience of one or an audience of 3 or 4,000 people. and there were reports of people fainting at readings of the murder of nancy by psyches. people swoons in other parts of hits readings, that might have just been the conditions in these venues where 3 or 4,000 people were gathered together to listen himment but he certainly
knew how to manipulate the emotions of a live audience. he was a con sum at actor. dickens relationship to the u. is is was very much a love hate relationship. love before he came here, quickly turning to hate after about three months. he came full of high ideals. he had been reading about america for a long time. and looked upon america as a place that had thrown off all of the old problems of europe and britain. you know, the social system and those kind of things that dickens felt really got in the way of business. and when he got here he was idollized, straight off the ship. he was invited out to dinner every night, huge banquets. and he was not pretentious. he was many things but pretentiousness wasn't something that he ever displayed. >> so this is a picture of two great victorian novelists, friends and rivals, dirkens and-- talk
about it. >> yes, well wa, brian the caricaturist has tried to capture here most importantly is their social distinctions, their class difference. zack ary here wearing a top hat, the pat richan class, dickens in the bow hat, the common man but of course what the caricaturist is pointing towards is the difference in their leadership,-- readership, the difference being dicken's much broader appeal to the reading public and also i find that the bowler hat is a hint at his american audience as well. dickens was highly aware of how perilous his own life was in terms of the social circumstances that he grew up in. his father was imprisoned for death. dickens became the sole family breadwinner at the age of 12 and said in retrospect, you know, i could have been a vagabond or a little thief for all anyone cared of me.
and it's not impossible to believe that dickens may well have ended up like one of the characters in olive twist. >> twist, are you out of your senses? >> please, sir, i want some more. >> what? >> dickens as a young man starts to go to the theatre more or less every single night. his diet of these certificate extremely eclectic as you can tell from his work. but he is steeped in shakespeare. hamlet more often than any other play. >> whether it is noble never the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of our great misfortune, or to take arms against a sea of trouble. >> but i think it's the focus on the young man and the formation of the young man and the way in which he can't quite grasp fate, or take control of his own life. and in a sense that's really
kind of what dickens did manage to do. he was able to turn his life around. he was the master of his own destiny. in the way that hamlet isn't. i think dickens was fascinated with the character of hamlet. his vacillation and this kind of thing. in a sense, it was what dickens was most afraid of in himself. in some ways the more you know about dickens, the more shocking it is that here is a man who seemed to need no rest. a man of absolute indefatigable commitments to good causes. he was a tremendously benevolent man. and sought to change lives in very real ways. >> it's a nice introduction to dickens. we go now to london to talk more about dickens and his legacy. joining me acker simon callow who played dickens in theatre and on information. his new book is you will cad charles dickens and the great theatre of the world and robert douglas-fairhurst. his new biography is called becoming dicken, the invention of a novelist n
new york with me jill lepore work on a book about dinks in america. john romano who wrote intolerable create, a professor at columbia and salman rushdie the author of midnight children, satanic versus and other backs, also a life lock dickens enthusiast and i'm pleased to have all of these guests here and to talk about charles dickens on this 200th anniversary. i begin with you, why dickens what is it about dickens that makes you continue to -- >> well, for me one of the things was reading dickens before i ever came to the west, you know, was that these cities that dickens describes, great rotting metropolis of dickens felt like the city outside my window if you grow newspaper a city like bombay or deli t feels exactly like dickensian london t has exactly that characteristic of corruption and filth. and then these huge
larger-than-life characters that populate it, you know. so i felt dickens a great novelist. >> rose: jill, are you the historian among us. >> well, it's interesting. in the united states dickens is taken as an american writer. maybe every country has a way of adopting dickens as a national difficult son which is curious because he has such a vexd and painful relationship with the united statesment but i think it is great expectation is the 9th most frequently assigned move nell american high schools it happens to also be the hardest novel assigned in american high schools. >> rose: robert douglas-fairhurst in london, how do you see him? >> well, keep the child in view is what said in his notes in the old curiosity shop. that is what he did throughout his whole life. he kept the child in you view. there was his own childhood that he could never get rid of and dragged around behind him in the way that marley drags his old chain behind him. but also that sense of wonder, that sense of the imagination is something that he always kept with
him. that sense in which he could always make even the most familiar bits of the world look surprising. >> rose: why was it that he never told anyone about his experience at the factory until later? >> shame. simple, una dull ter ated shame. he managed to make it from a working class childhood through the low middle class, through the ranks into a stable borg what family life and i-- life and i think that he felt that he managed to climb a ladder which could hely have turn mood a slide it kozly have taken him back down to where he came from. so i think he did, in fact, describe that past, that secret but de it in disguise. he did it by manufacturing incidents and characters and even little references to the blacking warehouse that he dropped into all his novels, as if he wanted to let people know but couldn't quite do it out loud. >> rose: simon, i knew of dickens because of his books
but knew less about his love of the theatre. tell me about that, and how important it was to him. >> oh, it was all consuming. from a very, very early age. he displayed great gifts of performance. we stand on the table in the local pub and tell stories and sing songs. he went to the theatre at a very early age in chatham, fell in love with t absolutely. also fell in love with the process of making theatre. he went to rehearsals, for example, of the amateur company run by his step cousin. and he, as soon as he possibly could started acting himself. and there was a serious desire on his part at one point to become an act ever. he actually applied for an audition to the garden theatre and simply illness stopped him from taking it up. he then, the audition was deferred to the next season and instead he was invited to become parliamentary reporter on his uncle's newspaper. and then his destiny as it were was set in that direction. but he kept on harking back to the theatre.
and did performed many, many plays by other people, ben johnson, shakespeare and so on and become a great director too. that's perhaps the most surprising thing to me is that he became a brilliant director, sought to raise the whole status of the stage in his productions. he was quite obsessed by it. de a little amateur production about a week before he died, it was full energy, though, he was incredibly frail and he said to a friend, i should have run a national theatre, that's what i should have done with my life. >> rose: did it impact his writing? >> i think more than you do with any other great writer, in the presence of the author, you feel him doing for you. wanting your admiration for the vert crossity of the different voices that he employs. even the pros passages are like great arias t is all a performance. >> his daughter katie dickens reported that she passed by his open door when she was writing and saw him standing in front of a full length mirror and was acting something out. and he asked her. and he gave an interesting
answer. he said well, if you asked someone to list the ways in which an old man walks, you might if he is good think of eight or ten think things but a decent act certificate imitating a hundred motions and would rush to his desk and write down what he had just done. so the acting and the writing were one. >> don't talk about t do it, is what he used to say when he was an editor. the reason he loved acting so much was that you could do things by talking, simply by talking on the stage. you could see the reactions on the faces of your audience, you could make them laugh. you could make them cry. what it did was took the time lag of publication and crushed it to a matter of less than a second so instead of sending out your words on the page, and not knowing what was going to happen to them, you could see the effects of your words on the face of your audience there and then. >> his performances like writing a book in company. >> yeah. >> i want to talk a minute about the public person too when he came to america. very successful run as a
lecturer and giving public performances. >> that's what he did. these two, these enormous very arduous lecture tours that he under took, he would like perform these greatest hits, it would do all the characters in different voices and including the female characters. i think it was-- is it nancy or the death of little nell. >> nancy. >> nancy. >> he would perform, you know, nobody seemed to mind that she had a beard, you know. >> he wrote under the pseudonym bazz for a while. >> and his critics like to say bazz is all buzz. one of the things too, i think the writing itself was very perform difficult, physically exhausting. he wrote like a maniac. he had this arduous writing routine where he would right from 9 to 2 every day and we be so bubbling over with the enthusiasm of his characters and imaginative world he had created that he would go walk for as many hours as he had written and i think there is something really
physical on the page for him. >> robert, you once said about him, i think you wrote about him that he used his pen like someone scratching an incurable itch. >> no, that's absolutely right. he needed to write. he needed to write. and i think it's largely because he saw the act of writing, the act of his hand moving across the page as a way of escaping from that past. but what's so interesting is that as he wrote, the more and more he wrote, each one of those lines started to look like a i will prison bar. he used it to pin down those characters. because then he could be not just aye prisoner, he could be the governor. he could be the governor who can make those prisoner does whatever he wanted them to do and then coleave them on the page and coescape. >> there is something we shouldn't mess when we talk about dicken as a writer and writer as a twitch or something. the mention of bazz suggested, he was a street reporter. he began life walking the beat, seeing and seeing and seeing and telling what he
saw. right to his very last book he was actually a recorder of what was, the world around him so it isn't t has become a habit i think to think of dickens of expressing the inside of dickens, he is one of the great first observers of the city. >> so he maintained a kind of journalistic. >> he remained a journalist. >> i think really in many ways the secrets of this, the magic of dickens is that he has this grounding in deep naturallistic knowledge, you know so, if he is writing about london, you know every brick in the street. you know every crack in the sidewalk. you know, but and then he grafts into this very carefully observed reality these elements which we would now call surrealism, you know, you have -- dish mean like the office, a government department that exists to do nothing. john dice versus john dice, a court case that never ends is something you might find in garcia marquez. the dust heaps in our mutual friend. a city dwarfed by its own
garbage so you have these larger-than-life surrealistic images which are powerful because they are grafted on to the real world. because they grow out of the real world, they gain power and they don't become just whimsical. >> are you agreeing with that, simon? >> oh, god, yes. there is something hall use natureory about dicken's growth so sometimes ask yourself what is this guy on. a wonderful passage in the christmas caroll where he says of marley's former house, he says it was up a yard which had had so little business to be in that he couldn't help-- it must have run there as a young house playing hide and seek with other houses. >> well, once it has written that he is tampering with your brain in a most thrilling way. >> and who was john foster. >> he became dickens best friend. in some way his only really good friends who stuck through him by him through thick and then. he became his unofficial
agent. he became his best editor. and event actually he became dicken's biographer. and when he wrote the life of dickens, in many ways it was the life of a friend. it was the life written by a friend, about a friend, in a friendly way but like all good friends it told a few truths about dickens but did them in disguise. >> i want to go back to the poor. and you mentioned growing up in india. where did that come from and what was it about describing and writing about the urban poor that so compelled him? >> i think it is what we have been saying, it is the things he escaped. it's the place he might have -- >> he wants to tell their story. >> yeah, he just has-- he has that great quality of a great novelist which is that he is om any rouse. there is nothing of life that is not interesting to him. >> and he would plunge into these worlds, the poor world which he might have escaped
from but still feared, the world of the rich industrialist or mill owner, any world that there is, dickens wanted to push his hands in up to the elbow. >> nd he was always interested, john go ahead. >> there is something about the politics about the poor, actually are more interesting than at first it seems. we tend to think sort of the poet or the sentimental cute. >> called in the people's tribune. >> yes, and that is true. and certainly in oliver twist you really feel how poverty criminalizes, violence against women, and notice at the same time one of his targets in oliver twist, liberal dysfunctional liberal attempts to cure property. the poor laws, work house, these are liberal institutions and he attacks the philosophers, the idea lolls-- idealogues as much as he attacks what poverty does for the poor. he has an interesting kind, and for him it's the same thing. the poor suffer at the hands of their friends and oppressers and that is a very kind of modern, in tale of two cities it it's very dramatic because the two
targets is the brutality of aristocracy of the regime and it's also the tyranny of the left that then rises in the form of the terror. they are all the enemies to the people in the street that is the sense in which the city's tribune s he's alone, kind of centrist,. >> karl marx said dickens pore political and social truth than had been utters by all the publists and more alysts president together. >> it is also the case that dinks political vision was largely thought of in his life tame by serious political thinkers as mickey mouse. that finally there was a kind of profound, naivete about his way of thinking about the power, the ordering of power within society. i mean a lot of that we kind of most inherit from orwell's famous essay on dickens in which he said the whole problem wol i ver twist is no system saves oliver twist, mr. brownwell saves oliver twist. >> that is an interesting critique because dicken's wol point is that it is at
the hand of systems that the par were suffering. he was very modern. a very sort of, he was a kind of anti-ideal log because he perceive add that some of the things that were being done to cure poverty, the status moves, were one of the things the poor were suffering from. one of the reasons why marksians have struggled to shoehorn him into an apprehension. >> it is also i think not a criticism of a political move told say that it doesn't offer a cure. you know, it is not really the function of literature, necessarily. you know, what he does is to see it, and show it. >> to observe expose it, and sometimes explain. >> and that's a great deal to do. when he and nicholas nickelby talks about the schools, the kind of square does the by's whole schools he was telling his readers something they didn't know about these schools, before television and radio. the novel couldstill bring the news in a way that now of course maybe it has less of a role in doing that. >> and i think he could have observe the political
grotesque. and that is what lies behind his downfall in come together united states that what he saw as really essentially a political reporter writing journalism, he wrote a travel narrative of his trip to the american states, general notes, the whole title of the track is making fun of americans for their love of money but what he chronicled was what he thought was the insidiousness of the spirit that infected all elements of american life. and he found i think that americans were unwilling to hear that from him that if he were more frank about what he thought was the nature of structural problems. >> he created unrealistic -- >> this is where dickens was obsessed with the poor and the story of rising from poverty. and he thought that the united states would be the idol that had been depicted by other writers at the time. >> simon. >> but he had a very particular personal experience of what he thought was american hypocrisy. when he arrived in new york, one of the first things he did was to talk about
international copyright law. he felt that writers were being cheated himself among them, of their due earnings because copyright reside with publishers and there was no international copyright law ever in america. so his books were endlessly recycled and reprinted without him getting a penny this was regard, this statement was regarded as outrageous by the american press who denounced him instantly and said if that's all you have to say go home, we don't want to know. we don't want you coming here and lecturing us on this. they believed rather the way people believed you could download anything from the internet free. that you, a man had written a book that was public in the public domain. >> freedom is very intesting there. because in some sense what he hated about america was that people made too free with imhad, the sgret land of opportunity, the great land of freedom, the great democratic experiment and people were perhaps a little too familiar with them. he didn't like the fact they treated him as an equal even
if they were working class onery people and that's very strange. but on the other hand it's absolutesly typical of dickens because he hated hypocrisy at any kind and what saw in america n his eyes, was an experiment in democracy that had gone wrong. it had gone wrong because it was based upon hypocrisy. everyone was equal and yet there was a slave-owning class in which some people were treated worse than animals. >> no white man ever hated slavery as much as charles dickens, and i think it was the sense of childhood imprisonment we were talking about. the great dickensian critic john bowen pointed out that there is a record where dickens transcribes catalogs of escaped slaves from the south. and in this one case he silences the thee at call performance of voice and simply writes down what is reading because in this one case you can't sort of outdickens the reality of how gruesome it was. that kind of hatred of slavery, the hypocrisy and
also some personal bell had been rung of being confined on an inner psychological level. >> it looks very impressive looking back at this, how vocal and powerful a critic of slafery dickens was at that time. and of course his voice was very loud. you have a lot of readers. and therefore it was very influential. in the discussion of the slaferry-- slavery question. the compassion of dickens is not to be underestimated. you had an incredible ability to put himself in the reality of other people, not himself, and to feel their life. you know. and that comes out of the books. i think what is interesting, how it comes out of the backs is in the earlier novels there is the notorious sentimentality of some of these characters but as the books, as he gets older, can still do that. but without the sentimentality. so if you -- >> one of the best examples of that comes in bleak house when there's a boy who sweeps the street in the terrible polluted, he's very concerned about air
pollution. pollution of london. and he dies. and he dies on the page after he spent a few hundred pages feeling badly he finally dies and dickens turns and says dead, ladies and gentlemen, dead you committees, dead parliament and he ends this passage by break the fourth wall and say together reader, and dying thus around us every day. and suddenly are you being told this isn't a book. i should say this ain't a book. and here it comes. this reality is around you. >> yeah. let me, simon or robert, talk about dickens and christmas and how he became identified with christmas. >> yes, well, of course it's often said that dickens invented christmas which is completely untrue. washington irving invented christmas, in the sense in which we mean it. but what dickens did was to page christmas into a symbol of something. and obviously wlae was saying, his simple message was if we can be kind to each other on this one day of the year y can't we extend it across the whole of the year. as he says, and looks to on
those below us as fellow passengers to the grave. but actually, the fascinating thing about christmas caroll is that it emerged not out of any consideration of christmas but out of the report, the parliamentary report of the employment of children in the minds. and dickens read it with such disgust and horror he determined as he said to strike a sledgehammer below against such activities. and the book is the direct result of that. and the core of the book comes when the spirit of christmas present is about to take his leave of scrooge. and scrooge discerns twoferel children emerging from the robes of the spirit. he says spirit, are these children yours. and the spirit says they are mankinds. the girl is want, the boy is ignorance. and he says those two will destroy civilization. and that is the absolute core of that book. dickens is passionate rage about what mankind does to
its children. >> at the same time he was acutely aware of just how vulnerable that vision of family christmas was. so in great expectations the scene where magazinewitch encounters pip the second time on the marshes, that is on christmas eve. similarly, when edwin is murdered, probably by his uncle nash, too happens on christmas eve. you know, these are times where families get together, but they're also times like modern family, christmases, where families are often driven apart by internal discord. >> let me explore now also dickens in london and during his time. how famous was he, how celebrated was he. how was he viewed. >> well, i think very famous, very el bratted. >> and considered, was he considered different then than he is today? has his fame grown or has it
been revisionism. >> i think it's the same kind of fame. i think in that search the work is so authoritative. it shows you how to read it, what it means. it creates its mood and voice so well that i don't think we read dickens differently now than they did then. i think the richness of the language, the comedy, the unforget ability of the characters. you know, it's, the only difference is that we're not reading it in serial form. we're not reading it in installments. which i think created that whole business of installment publication, created a waiver, readers interact with text. >> the popular readership has very much been a continue out, but its critical reception has been subject to great deals, vicissitudes it, this wonderful count, henry james little boy, seven years old, crawled underneath his parent's table and hid, it was after his bedtime because the next tomorrow would come and he was listening too loud and wasn't supposed to stay up and he is somebodying, and gets caw up and sent to bed.
henry james is an adults repudiates dickens because he wasn't necessary for that generation of critics to establish their critical credentials, by gentlemen ecting dickens as a car talkiies, politically naive and as lesser novelist than zachary. it's not until the 1920s and '30 that dickens critical redemption is effected and partly by the story of ellen becoming public and dickens somehow becomes more interested to the new critics. >> rose: because they know more yes within he was put aside by the modernists per se. blooms burry had no use for him, he was too victorian, they were getting rid of victorian and, it is interesting that abroad there had always been a sharp literary and aesthetic appreciation. he was huge for dostoyevsky, he admired bill sykes, the. freud, these are great readers t took awhile for the literary and aesthetic side of eng lirk and
american criticism to appreciates him. >> but the books never disappeared. i means that's the thing. there is the proof of it, you know f your books survive after your death hundreds of years, that never happens by accident. >> that speaks louder than criticism. >> never happens by accident. >> books survive because people love them. >> dickens move sell a script. and interestingly, on the installment question, very often those books were bought by somebody who could read and read outloud to those who couldn't. and thus his words were conveyed to the great population, who couldn't read anything at all. >> one of the problems in biographer and i count myself as culpable in this, is that we have in a sense produced dickens as a public celebrity, a public figure. and often we neglect the writing itself. but in some sense dickens is responsible for that he was the first literary celebrity. at least the one that everyone knew about. the word celebrity comes into the language, thier that he starts to wait david
copperfield and he tried to live up to precisely that image. those brightly coloured garrish flashy waste coats that he wore. they were his costume, his image. they were the brand dickens that he was deliberately cultivating. >> rose: david copperfield is obviously autobiographical. >> absolutely, yes. but like a lot of his works, it's autobiographical in disguise. the disguise is perhaps less marked in that novell than in some of the others. but it woosh impossible to take a single page of dickens and treat it simply as a mirror that he held up to his own life. it's a distorting fun fare mirror where some bits are expanded, other bits are shrunken. what you get say very strange kind of melding of fact and fiction as salman rushdie was saying earlier. >> rose: this is a clip from david copperfield, here it
is. copper field. >> do i have the honor of add regular-- addressing the bearer of the name of copperfield. >> yes, is sir. >> wilkins. >> at your service. >> i hope i see you well. >> your esteemed stepfather a man of business like myself has charged me with the honor of providing with you suitable quarters when in town. >> you mean i am to stay with you, sir. >> in short, yes.
>> under the impression that your in this metropolis have not as yet been-- and you might have difficulty penetrating the mysteries of a modern baby long, i place myself at your disposal. >> in short, in case you get lost, i have come to take you home. >> jill, you have said that in copperfield he confronted his youth and in expectations he confronted his adulthood. >> yeah, i think he really needed to write through both of those things. i think that shame as art was speak about was a really powerful thing for him his whole life. it was also, you know, willie dean helm said it was a thing where he felt that dickens fiblingly failed. to be a great american writer was to not be ashamed of the lowliness of your origin, in fact to trot them out. that is when franklin did in his autobiography. we always celebrate starting very low.
presidential campaigns are nothing. >> we're doing that right now. >> nothing could be better. >> what's interesting about if you compared two books, you know, in great expectations, he allows his sort of hidden character, pip, to be morally flawed. you know. and to be ambiguous. and not simply the child put upon who has to overcome adversity and rise, as in copperfield, in, by the time he is writing great expectations he's willing to accept that there are flaw intrinsic to the character that he is trying to-- trying in a way to write through, try to be him in the book. and i think that's what makes it such a remarkable journey, you know, from the first to the second. he begins to learn about moral complexity within himself. >> speak of journey, john, you have gone from professor to screenwriter. how does dickens influence what you might want to do on the page. >> i was so surprised when i
made that move, a moved to los angeles to join the staff of hill street blues, was lucky enough to have that as my first job. and i found that people were talk become steven crane and conrad and they were talking about dickens, especially about dickens. >> the writers, the writers room which can be one of the great places of creativity in america. a writers room on a good show. listen, we were all at various stages of having dropped out of english departments one way or another, that is how you get there, to los angeles. and the subject of dickens was always coming up. we were writing about cities, about crimes, about cops. dickens was one of the first thing to notice how interesting a policeman is standing between the legitimate and il legitimate in a changing modern city. and the conversation turned off and-- as a popular writer, you know, we were writing for television, and so was he. in fact, when you talked about the fact that people when simon talked about the fact that the weekly part would be read aloud to others, in the family living
room by dad, it resembles nothing so much as an american family gathered around in front of the television set to see what happens this week to his favorite characters so we felt a closeness to dickens. >> salomon, when you are playing dickens, what are you reaching back and trying to find as your own load star. >> well, the thing you have to connect with is this torrential energy. which is that applies to playing dickens and playing his ca,. it's like riding a bucking bronco. the man is absolutely bursting with undischarged energy. and the great thing is that you then have to master it. unlike shakespeare where you must allow the character to penetrate into your soul, as it were, with dickens you have to hang on to the ears of mrs. gamp if are you going to play her as i have done. it's a very exhilarating experience but you need to be in very good shape to do it. >> robert, you have written
that dickens is still becoming dickens, what did you mean? >> well, what i mean is that the shape of dickens, dickens in our minds, the way we understand dickens is always changing. he's-- i said earlier that sometimes he used a page like a distorting mirror but he's also like a distorting mirror that we hold off to our own concerns. so at the moment, for instance, riots in london, that was in barn abbey rugg. we think about bankers, little door ris. we think about riches suddenly being bestowed on people without don't deserve them. that of course is great expectations. you no know, where have we looked for contemporary parallels and echoes. we find them in dickens. >> rose: you quote in the epigram of becoming dickens is this line from oscar wilde which says one's real life is so often the life that one does not lead. why did you choose that?
>> well, because dickens realized early on that he was going to have to choose some part in life but he tried out lots of alternatives. one of which we've heard about, being a parliamentary reporter, another we heard about, being an actor. at one point he talked about emigrating to the west endies so there are all these alternatives it. what he finally realized is that he could live out all these alternative lives vicariously on the page through his characters. through fiction, he could live lots of parallel lives and lots of after lives and he wouldn't have to commit himself to any one of them. cosimply do it through the make believe of telling stories. >> when he left the blacking warehouse, sorry, when he left the blacking hair house, he must have made a conscious or unconscious decision to turn himself towards the light because there was an engulfing blackness inside him. that 18 months that he spent
there was almost enough to wipe him out as a person. and emerges from the blacking warehouse at the age of 14 as a brilliant, witty, lively and life enhancing person and that mask as it were, suit him in fantastically good stead for many, many years but the inner blackness started oozing up out of him. and unsettled him terribly. >> one of the ways of thinking about his writing, using inc. is that it was that blackness. it really was that little inner blackness that had to company out in some way. >> our friend, the late christopher itchen-- hitchens wrote eloquently about his illness. he also wrote about dickens. i think the last thing he wrote. >> last thing he wrote, one of the extraordinary things, he could be in a hospital room without access to books and just have this incredible-- pretentious memory to be able to summon up dinks. but i do think that one of the things about dickens is
the way in which he stays with you as a writer. if it's your profession, there's this extraordinary shelf of books. you know, which as we were saying, you know, that you can look, find endless contemporary references in them. and as time has passed, the strength of that, of that body of work has made him really, i think, the english novelist. i mean remember even shakespeare had the period when people thought he wasn't that good. you know, and his plays were burglarized by mr. bodler given happy endings, romeo and juliette not dead at the end because that was a bit of a downer so even shakespeare has a slump before he is established as the kind of national pote and playwright. dickens too. now i think we're at a point where if you are a writer in the english language you must know about dickens. you must know. >> dickens and shakespeare on the same page. >> yes. >> i think shakespeare comes when you talk or think about dickens. one way to know why is to
think of a character like scrooge. how does one come up with a scrooge or a fallstaff or hamlet. how does one come up wit with-- there is something about a creation that, a character creation that becomes iconic the first time you read it, that you only find perhaps in shakespeare and dickens. i think you can also make that statement. i'm sure i'm forgetting. >> one of the things they have in common, shakespeare and dickens is the brilliance at portraying low life. when you think about shakespeare you think about the greatlyo hamlet but he is actually incredibly good at soldiers getting drunk in pubs and you know prostitutes and-- et cetera, et cetera, if you look at the low life of dickens and low life of shakespeare there he is enormous sort of meeting point there. >> he was also, i mean, a writer's writer in many ways, a prisoner of his own genius so, trapped in that room with a paper hat on his head and that sort of pot of inc. inside of his soul desperate
to spill out. de reach all those readers who were the lowly. >> there are characters across dickens where you don't have to know the book to know the character because the character ent -- character entered the culture. >> simon i want to read to your book, the dedication. you say this book is dedicated to a friend whose loss only gets worse with the passing year, simon gray, who was more alive to dickens and in who dickens was more alive than anyone i ever knew. much of what was in this book was first floated during hours and hours of dickensian chats in restaurants across this city during 25 golden years of friendship. what a nice, nice dedication. >> well, simon was utterly immersed in dickens. and the thing that he responded to most of all was this thing we talked about earlier, this hall use nature ory quality, which i think close to the core of dickens. >> take a character like mr. -- in david copperfield
what an extraordinary creation. here is unswrx and clearly somehow rivering to himself, he will dick, mr. dickens he seems to have some undiagnosable mental illness. the sweetest possible character in literature. whenever he sits down to write a memorial to parliament explaining the details it of his inheritance gone awry he says the memory of charles the first's head drifts into his wraing and he ends up fouling of his writing, so all can do is kupt the paper and attach it to the tail of a kite and watch it lift up over the hills and gave his mind peace where. does that come from the world charles dickens is in there so it comes from inside him but it's beautiful, hughes natureory, and it is the miracle of imagination. >> if you want to demur from the add allation for dicken was would you most say-- robert. >> i would say that he couldn't describe women as anything other than angels. i would say that he was a
closet racist. i would say that there were times when as his daughter katie said my father was a very wicked man. and i would say none of that matters at all. none of it matters because the humanity and the generosity and the warmth of the writing can extinguish all of that. >> simon what would you say to demur. >> you have to face the fact that there are uninspired passages in dickens. sometime these go on for quite a long time. and but what is there is extraordinary. so you will actually christopher hitchens said in his final essay, he said that yes there are dud passages here and it is a little hard sometimes to know which nofl, which character it comes from but dickens echoed dk chesterton in this remark, it is like one great bail of fabric under which the novels are cut randomly. you are in touch with dickens himself wherever you look in his develops and
fortunately he was such an extraordinary, such a great, such a complex human being you can't get enough. >> when you are a writer you make bargains with writers. when i was a little kid coy not stand the girls, the little tiny, vanishingly small dorrit, stella sent me over the edge but my bargain with dickens as a reader as a kid has always been i will put up with the girls if you will be very, very funny. >> sue put up. >> you know james talked about novelists like dickens and tolstoy as writing loose, baggy monsters, my problem is a technical one. they are often a mess, you have to wade through, the unfortunate parts to get to the good stuff which is what you carry away for life. sow i would say there is no question there were structural flaws. and that seems too me a lesser matter than the brilliance of the imagination and of the heart, the emotional againuous. >> it is the heart that i get. >> and just agree with what john is saying about the
most baggie monster thing. because the formal problems of dickens are very much created by the serial form. because are you having to produce these books in this partial stage, you know. and i think it's remarkable how architected they are. you know, considering the scale of these books and the way in which they're written. of course dickens was obsessive about tying up all the loose ends. so the end of the book he'll tell you what happens to every character in later life including their pets. so he had a great desire to make the thing shapely, you know. >> i'm to the going to argue the form of the novel with salman rushdie. >> rose: on that note, i thank you, thank you all, thank you, john. thank you, jill. thank you simon, thank you robert. a pleasure.